Can Orthotics Help Metatarsalgia?
First of all, what is metatarsalgia? This word seems alien to most people, but in medical terminology metatarsalgia means metatarsal pain. Typically this means pain to the metatarsal heads, which are the ends of the metatarsal bones that make up the ‘ball’ of the foot. This pain is usually felt on the bottom of the foot and is aggravated by walking or weight-bearing. This condition may develop in people who spend extended periods of time standing or walking, or in those who participate in high impact sports such as running or basketball.
Now that I have explained what metatarsalgia is, you might wonder what causes it. Usually the pain occurs due to overloading or too much pressure being transferred to the metatarsal bones. There are five metatarsal bones, with the one connected to the big toe being the largest-the other four are smaller in size. Certain conditions, such as pronation (arch collapse) or lack of big toe joint function, can lead to overload of the smaller metatarsal heads; since the smaller metatarsals are not designed to bear this much weight, inflammation and pain may result. This can lead to joint pain (involving the joints connecting the metatarsals and small toes) as well as pain to the adjacent joint capsule (joint sack) or the associated tendon(s). In some cases progressive overload to these metatarsals may result in stress fractures. In addition, this condition could lead to a painful pinched nerve condition called Morton’s neuroma.
So, can orthotics help relieve the pain associated with this condition? The answer is yes! A custom foot orthotic is beneficial in that it will reduce pressure and loading to the smaller metatarsals heads, effecting transferring pressure back to the first (and biggest) metatarsal, where it should be. Also, support of the foot arch and full contact of the orthotic to the entire bottom of the foot disperses pressure away from the painful metatarsals, reducing tissue stress and allowing for healing.
If you have metatarsalgia, or pain to the ‘ball’ of the foot, consider orthotics as a highly effective way to manage this painful condition. Call Alpine Foot &Ankle Clinic at (406) 721-400 or visit our website to set up an appointment with Dr. Neibauer to see if orthotics are right for you.